Just a reminder: A republic, not a democracy

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On the roster: Just a reminder: A republic, not a democracy - Poll shows Dems with big advantage on enthusiasm - House GOP headed for rupture on immigration - Fiscal cliff fast approaching, shutdown threats fly - Oh heyyyyyyyy…

How did Americans feel about Medicare when it was being debated?

The program is certainly popular – if insolvent – now, but what did voters think about the government-backed insurance program for the aged when it was passed in the summer of 1965? We have no idea, and frankly neither did the legislators who crafted it.

What about the ceasefire in the Korean War? Or the Panama Canal? Or the Louisiana Purchase? Again, no idea.

Now, that’s not to say that good politicians didn’t always have a hunch about how the public would respond to various things, but they only had the roughest estimates about public sentiment — and often misleading ones at that.

This note has a memory long enough to reach back to the days when activists would try to flood the fax machines of members of Congress over this bill or that one. Before that, there were telephone calls and telegrams. And before that, letters and visits from constituents.

But the work that was done in Washington and the decisions made here largely happened beyond public view, or, frankly, public interest. Not only were there fewer options for news in those days, but there was just less news, period. A 30-minute broadcast and what could fit in a broadsheet newspaper was pretty much the extent of what normal Americans could consume on a daily basis.

Back in those days politicians were always claiming to have public support, but without public knowledge who the heck knew what the people wanted?

And even if voters did know, how could their leaders really understand what their constituents thought? Public opinion research is only really about 60 years old and has only recently been able to explore more nuanced questions about public opinion, and even then, manages to do a pretty poor job of it.

Take for example the recent poll showing great popularity for the president’s upcoming summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. That’s certainly good news for President Trump who is banking on the negotiations to be his signature foreign policy accomplishment for the first half of his administration, and certainly will encourage him to lean in on the effort.

But you know what else was once popular? The invasion of Iraq and escalating the Vietnam War. Public opinion is fickle not just because of changing circumstances but also because very often people don’t know what they want when it comes to government policy.

We live in an age now where people expect for their desires to be met by others even before they are stated. When you go shopping online, the merchant already knows your size, preferred styles and price points. When you go to Starbucks, your coffee order reflects tens of millions of dollars worth of market research intended to find out whether you really like bold brews or sweet treats.

But government is not like that, regardless of what politicians will tell you. Nor can it be in our system. What is good is often unpopular at the start and what is bad very often rides in under the banner of strong popular sentiment. That’s one of the reasons we have a republic. Voters give their proxy to elected leaders so that those leaders are free to make choices on their behalf.

As we have become more connected and lawmakers have gotten better in touch with the fickle feelings of the electorate, Congress and the executive branch have gotten more adroit at responding to public opinion, and yet, Americans are less satisfied than ever with the way Washington is run.

Americans dissatisfaction with government and the dysfunction of the government itself are substantially byproducts of cultural lag. Technology has improved as it related to the dissemination of information and the measurement of public sentiment, but our systems are not designed for crowdsourced governance. Politicians are better able to pander to narrow interest groups that decide elections, especially in primaries. Meanwhile, the increased scrutiny from around-the-clock coverage paralyzes lawmakers.

This may all sound rather strange coming from a note that devotes so much of its energies to public opinion polling, but to quote every politician trialing in the polls, “the only poll that matters is the one on election day.”

We care enormously about what Americans think about the politicians they have elected to office and who they might choose in the fall. But we care relatively little about public sentiment on individual issues, which is often poorly measured, inconsistently defined and subject to rapid reversals.

ObamaCare, for example, was consistently unpopular right up until Republicans were about to repeal it. The law didn’t change, but the political atmosphere did. The unpopularity of the law during its creation undoubtedly helped produce the misshapen product of 2010 and its sudden popularity helped produce the GOP’s Keystone Cops routine in 2017. Were voters served by either?

We are not by any means suggesting civic detachment here, but we are suggesting that both lawmakers and voters would be happier and results would be better if we gave elected officials a little more room to operate in between elections.

Trust is hard to come by in our cynical age, so it is understandable that we would be slouching toward digital democracy as we grow disillusioned with our leaders.

But how much of that disillusionment really stems from elected officials trying to please a public that doesn’t really know what it wants?

“The founders of our republics have so much merit for the wisdom which they have displayed, that no task can be less pleasing than that of pointing out the errors into which they have fallen.” – James MadisonFederalist No. 48

Smithsonian: “Ketchup is arguably the United States’ most ubiquitous condiment. 97 percent of Americans have a ketchup bottle in the fridge, usually Heinz, and we buy some 10 billion ounces of the red stuff annually—almost three bottles per person per year. We purportedly spend more money on salsa, but in terms of sheer volume ketchup comes out on top. Bright red in color, tangy, sweet, salty, and replete with a ‘meaty,’ tomato-ey umami hit, ketchup provides accents of color and flavoring, as well as a smell and texture that is familiar and comforting. It’s the perfect complement to the American diet: contrasting with salty and fatty flavors while enhancing the sweet notes in our most popular foods. And while we think of it as ‘merely’ a condiment on what we’re really eating, it has helped to revolutionize the way food is grown, processed, and regulated.”

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Trump job performance 
Average approval: 
40.2 percent 
Average disapproval: 
53.8 percent 
Net Score:
 -13.6 points
Change from one week ago: 
down 0.2 points 
[Average includes: NBC/WSJ: 44% approve - 53% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 40% approve - 51% disapprove; IBD: 36% approve - 55% disapprove; Gallup: 41% approve - 55% disapprove; CBS News: 40% approve - 55% disapprove.]

Control of House
Republican average: 
41 percent
Democratic average: 48.2 percent
Democrats plus 7.2 points
Change from one week ago: 
Democratic advantage up 0.6 
[Average includes: NBC/WSJ: 50% Dems - 40% GOP; Quinnipiac University: 47% Dems - 40% GOP; IBD: 47% Dems - 40% GOP; CNN: 47% Dems - 44% GOP; CBS News: 50% Dems - 41% GOP.]

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WSJ: “Democrats are showing considerably more interest in the fall elections than are Republicans, and voters overall are signaling they would like control of Congress to flip to the Democrats, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds. The Democratic advantages come at the same time President Donald Trump’s approval rating has improved to 44%, one of its highest marks since he took office. Nearly two-thirds of voters are satisfied with the economy, one of the strongest showings since 2001. Some 53% of voters disapprove of Mr. Trump’s job performance, however. … Five months before the voting, Democrats are more focused on the campaign. Some 63% of Democrats said they are very interested in the midterms, compared with 47% of Republicans. Democrats’ interest in the race exceeds that of a comparable point in 2006—a year when the party picked up 31 House and six Senate seats in a midterm rout that then-Republican President George W. Bush called a ‘thumping.’”

Schumer defends Menendez’s weak primary showing - WaPo: Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer proclaimed  … in Democrats’ prospects in the midterm elections, while disclosing he had reached out to a major party draw for help — former president Barack Obama. In an interview with The Washington Post, Schumer (D-N.Y.) asserted that the number of states in which Democrats are playing defense has narrowed, though he declined to identify them. The Democrats are defending 26 Senate seats in November, including two held by independents who caucus with them, while the GOP has only nine seats on the ballot. At the same time, Schumer dismissed any concerns about Sen. Robert Menendez’s surprisingly lackluster performance in Tuesday’s primary in New Jersey, in which a little-known Democratic primary challenger won nearly 40 percent of the vote while barely campaigning.”

California Dems put pragmatism ahead of ideology - NYT: “Democrats picked their slate of congressional candidates in California on Tuesday from an enormous pack of contenders, in some cases resolving chaotic primaries by the narrowest of margins. And for all the energy on the left, Democrats appear to have largely settled on a mainstream set of candidates to contest key Republican-held House seats. Most candidates who won in the primaries appear close in their views to the average Democratic candidate in California, while fewer winners are farther to the left, according to a methodology developed by Adam Bonica, a professor of political science at Stanford University. In some districts, where Democrats feared getting shut out of the general election under California’s “top two” system of open primaries, voters may have put tactics over ideology in casting their ballots. …Democrats appear set to test whether conventionally liberal candidates — not left-wing activists — can make deep inroads in moderate areas that have historically supported Republicans.”

House Democrats bristle at Perez plan to limit their power in 2020 pick - 
Politico: “The controversial issue of ‘superdelegates’ and their future in the Democratic Party led to an angry confrontation on Tuesday night between Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez and House Democrats, according to several lawmakers. … Superdelegates include members of Congress, governors, party elders such as former presidents and vice presidents, DNC members and other assorted “distinguished party leaders.” They made up roughly 15 percent of the delegates during the 2016 convention. Unlike other delegates, they are free to vote for any candidate they want. During a two-hour-plus meeting with a group of House Democrats at DNC headquarters, Perez laid out two options under consideration for superdelegates by the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee. The rules committee will meet on the issue Friday, and there’s a June 30 deadline for any proposed amendments to the DNC charter, which will be voted on during a key August party meeting, right in the middle of election season.”

Roll Call: “House Republicans spent two hours Thursday morning talking through their differences on immigration but left the pivotal meeting no closer to a legislative solution. The continued discord all but guarantees a discharge petition will get the 218 signatures this week or early next, which would trigger a June 25 vote on a queen of the hill rule setting up a series of votes on existing immigration bills that also lack unified GOP support. … In a sign that leadership was not confident the conference would finally be able to get on the same page on an issue that has divided Republicans for years, Speaker Paul D. Ryan opened the Thursday conference by noting the purpose of the talks was to head off the discharge petition, not force the issue, according to a source in the room. Ryan said the ideas leaders and members involved in the negotiations were presenting Thursday weren’t the product of leadership but rather the result of the meetings between moderate and conservative members of the conference, the source said.”

 doesn’t see immigration happening this year - The Hill: “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has all but ruled out the Senate making a second attempt at immigration reform legislation this year. ‘Honestly ... I can’t see us going back to immigration this year unless there was some proposal that the president actually was okay with and said he was willing to sign. I don’t think he’s okay with anything that I’ve seen coming our way,’ McConnell told Fox News. He added that the ‘short answer’ is it’s ‘not on the agenda in the Senate.’ McConnell’s comments come as House Republicans are barreling toward a make-or-break moment on their immigration reform fight. … If [Paul] Ryan can’t sell his caucus on a compromise, centrist House Republicans are threatening to push forward with a discharge petition that would set up a series of immigration votes on the House floor.”

Mega donor threatens boycott until immigration action - Politico: “A billionaire Florida healthcare mogul and Republican megadonor says he will cut off contributions to elected officials and candidates who refuse to fix immigration laws. Mike Fernandez, long at odds with President Donald Trump over deportations, told POLITICO in a phone interview he’s behind a broadening strategy among donors to punish politicians who will not sign a discharge petition in the House that would trigger a congressional showdown over the fate of hundreds of thousands of so-called Dreamers. … The Cuban-born Fernandez is one of a growing number of GOP donors who are demanding Congress take action on the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which Trump canceled last year. Last week, former Exelon chairman John Rowe and Weather Tech CEO David MacNeil told POLITICO they would curb resources to Republicans over the issue.”

WashEx: “House Democrats are threatening to vote against the first wave of fiscal 2019 spending bills, forcing Republicans into a familiar fight with themselves over government funding that could leave them headed for another government shutdown threat in September. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is urging Democrats to vote against an upcoming ‘mini-bus’ package that pulls together a few spending bills into one bill. Without Democratic support, the measure could falter thanks to the usual opposition from staunch fiscal conservatives. The House plans to vote Friday on the first bill — the Energy and Water, Legislative Branch and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2019. It’s the first in what House and Senate Republicans plan as a series of minibus measures that would allow Congress to avoid a years long habit of passing nearly all federal spending in one massive omnibus package. Pelosi, however, told fellow Democrats to vote against the bill, even though the top-line funding for all 2019 non-mandatory spending will adhere to a bipartisan deal secured in March.”

GOP senators stand by Corker’s tariff blocking legislation - 
Politico: “Republicans are finally reaching their breaking point with President Donald Trump on trade. One faction of GOP senators is pushing Sen. Bob Corker’s (R-Tenn.) legislation that would allow Congress to block Trump’s tariffs — which Trump is trying to kill before it comes to the Senate floor. Another group is holding private meetings with Trump, hoping it can convince him via back-channel negotiations to back off a brewing trade war with U.S. allies before Congress steps in. However this episode ends, Trump’s decision to impose steel and aluminum tariffs on Mexico, Canada and Europe has brought a long-simmering conflict with congressional Republicans to a head. And the party is now fretting that Trump’s policies could hurt the economy and divide the GOP just five months before the midterm elections. … The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Koch Industries both endorsed Corker’s plan on Wednesday.”

Senate struggles to contain Trump on deal with shady Chinese firm - National Journal: “Senate opponents of the White House’s bid to grant ZTE a reprieve from crippling U.S. sanctions notched a crucial victory Wednesday, inserting a provision to block President Trump’s deal with the Chinese telecommunications firm into the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act. But the broader congressional effort to sever the president’s lifeline to ZTE—a company that many lawmakers view as an acute national security threat—still faces several hurdles. Some powerful Republican senators are expressing doubts over the plan, which requires the White House to certify that the company has not violated U.S. law for at least one year and is fully cooperating with any U.S. government investigation before modifying sanctions. That skepticism raises the prospect that the provision, a separate measure from one barring the use of ZTE products by the Pentagon, could be stripped out or watered down in the coming NDAA debate.”

House GOP to vote on .12 percent deficit reduction plan - AP: “The GOP-controlled House is moving ahead on a White House plan to cut almost $15 billion in leftover spending, scheduling a vote after President Donald Trump took to Twitter to sell the idea. A spokesman for House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Wednesday that the House will vote Thursday night on the measure, which had appeared to languish after Trump submitted it last month. The measure faces long odds in the Senate despite being immune to a Democratic filibuster. The legislation would have only a tiny — $1 billion or so — impact on the government’s budget deficit, which is on track to total more than $800 billion this year. Some of the cuts wouldn’t affect the deficit at all since budget scorekeepers don’t give credit for rescinded money that they don’t think would have ever been spent.”

NYT: “Speaker Paul D. Ryan contradicted President Trump’s assertions of a broad conspiracy by federal law enforcement on Wednesday, joining other lawmakers in saying that the F.B.I. did nothing wrong by using a confidential informant to contact members of the Trump campaign as it investigated its ties to Russia. And he said that Mr. Trump should not try to pardon himself, despite the president’s assertion two days earlier that he has the power to take such a step. ‘I don’t know the technical answer to that question, but I think obviously the answer is he shouldn’t,’ Mr. Ryan told reporters. ‘And no one is above the law.’ Mr. Ryan’s warning was the latest indication that the president is beginning to face trouble on Capitol Hill, where members of his own party are showing small signs of resistance.”

Rooney also pours cold water on Nunes’ claims - Axios: “Rep. Tom Rooney, a retiring top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, has joined other conservatives disputing President Trump’s unsupported claim that the FBI planted a spy inside his 2016 campaign, Politico reports. Rooney was one of three House Republicans who lead the Intelligence Committee's year-long investigation into possible links between the Trump campaign and Russia.”

DOJ to hold another briefing on Trump probe - Politico: “The Justice Department intends to offer an additional briefing to a select group of senior lawmakers who have pressed for details about the FBI's use of an informant to make contact with associates of President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign. A senior Justice Department official said lawmakers in the so-called Gang of Eight — a group that includes Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) — will have an opportunity to review documents that they didn't review during a high-level classified briefing last month.”

The Judge’s Ruling: Equal protection, equal exposure - This week, Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano asks if the president could actually pardon himself: “The president is not a king. He took an oath to uphold the Constitution. That includes the rule of law. … The Giuliani argument over the weekend that Trump could have Comey shot in the Oval Office with impunity is not only needlessly tasteless and patently absurd but also contrary to the rule of law, and it is an invitation to presidential lawlessness. …  Can the president pardon himself? The short answer is: No one knows. The longer answer is: Why would the president’s lawyer be offering this argument? … The president’s pardoning power has no limits in the Constitution. Yet the rule-of-law principle that one cannot be the prosecutor or judge in one’s own case suggests that the president’s pardoning power is limited to people other than himself. It is hard for me to believe that a court confronted with an indictment of Trump would dismiss it in deference to Trump’s self-pardon.” More here.

Trump blows up a gale about himself in meeting intended to discuss hurricanes - WaPo

McConnell asks Cornyn to stay on leadership team - The Hill

No free lunch: Pruitt’s frequent visits drew rebuke from White House mess hall
 - Politico

“I regard this as much like a family quarrel. I’m always the optimist, I believe it can be worked out.” – National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow, discussing the international disagreement on trade heading into the G7 conference which begins on Friday. 

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WNBC: “Trooper Michael Patterson stopped Michael Bailly for a minor motor vehicle violation on June 1 in the Kingwood Township area [in New Jersey], and as the two men spoke, Bailly mentioned that he used to be an officer in Piscataway. … Patterson told him that he grew up on Poe Place. Bailly recalled Poe Place well; back in October 1991, when he was a rookie cop, he helped deliver a baby there. The mother had been out shopping when she went into labor and barely made it home before the baby arrived. The baby’s father rushed outside and carried her into the house, then called their doctor, who talked Bailly through the birth. … Patterson extended his hand to Bailly. ‘My name is Michael Patterson, sir. Thank you for delivering me,’ the trooper said. Needless to say, the trooper, the retired officer and both their families were ecstatic about the reunion… Bailly never got that ticket for the minor violation, state police said.”

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.